Funny, how no-one knows that’s why I hate my name. We share our initials and people call me ‘La’ all the damn time. I loathe it. I turn 40 this year and intend to change it, to what I am not yet sure, but I am sick to death of LaLaLa.
You named me after someone you knew. When I was little you said she was an aunt, but my oldest sister said she was just a friend, someone who was kind to you in a life where people were duplicitous and lecherous at best. But it’s nothing to me, and I’m sorry, but I’ve never liked even the sound or look of Laura Ann. I have no connection to it and it’s got to go. I used to think I could do that with you, to, but now I think differently, so let me hold your hand and say “Hi”.
It’s been a while.
You’re my mother.
At the moment, I work in downtown Menlo Park, and while it is a lovely place, we have a few “fixtures”, one, by pseudonym, Blue Lady. Because she wears a blue parka. She is You. I knew You the minute you walked into the shop the first time. You look the same. Your troubles are deep, you live in a home or shelter and are, by turns, disconnected, sometimes cheerful and talkative, or maudlin, or inconsolable. Sometimes the voices come and you are frightened and angry and I have to call the police and I hate it. I hate that you are frightened, that your sanity is lost. I hate more that you frighten me and make me uncomfortable. That I have to fight inside to console you or hate you for coming into the shop and talking to my customers and leaving me unsure of what to do. I can’t take care of you now any more than I could when I was small. So I bottle it up for the day, after you’ve used the bathroom and left. I get in my car and tighten up, drive all the way home, then fall apart.
The other day, Facebook ran a Suggested (advert) Post (advert) for a Mother’s Day card that featured a mommy and daughter outside in the rain with an umbrella and galoshes, and they were rainbow colored. The caption read:
“What moments have you noticed that you’ve started to act like your mother?”
My response was: “Dunno, but love her as I do, it's never looked like this...”, and it took me a while to realize I didn’t write that about my mom, I wrote it about you.
There are a lot of moments, many of which torment me; are painful and regretful and retarded my life just as the same poison ruined yours. And yet, so, so many moments I wish I could.
You see, you passed on the crazy. Big ol’ buckets of it, in many forms, to just about all of us, but a few of us especially in a few special ways. The nephews have their challenges which they have overcome with a lot of resource help in school and my sister’s never-ending sainthood. She deserves a Nobel. Or something. But I got the PayDay-BabyRuth-Nutbar, and it has tormented me my entire life. Which is where this whole agonizing ying-yen begins.
I was a difficult, probably terrifying, child. And dad worked a lot. And sometimes, for all his good points, he was not very forgiving, and he had expectations, and I cannot imagine what it’s like dealing with a mentally ill child plus two other kids on your own. But I remember the Pink and Purple Planet stories. With the little girl and her archeologist/paleontologist father on a world of weird stuff and dinosaurs, which you made up out of your head every morning on the way to daycare because you had to do something with me for a few hours a day. But I had wretched anxiety, sick to my stomach, so you made up stories for 15 minutes every morning.
When we moved, the new house had orchard trees. So we made apricot pineapple jam. To this day, when I open a jar of really, really good apricot jam I nearly cry with happiness. But I don’t know how to make jam. I was too small. I remember what the jars looked like, and pouring in the molten-hot, golden-orange goo, and the tangy, late-day, sunset-y flavor of beautiful homemade jam, but I don’t know how it was done.
I remember cheeseburgers and Kraft Dinner, which I can make, with èlan. I remember spaghetti, and sausage with butter beans, which my husband likes a LOT. I remember meatloaf but it was only in the last few years I ventured into this territory because I failed it once. I remember distinctly it was made in the loaf pan, and had ketchup, american cheese and bacon criss-crossed on top. I made it once when GingerMan and I were first together, and I didn’t know what order everything went in and it was not to the Standard of Memory. I got the grown-up By-God-Betty-Crocker ring-binder cookbook, and began learning the shortcomings of cookbooks, as the recipe didn’t work either. Years later I found, on a visit to my sister in Kansas, a Betty Crocker Cookbook for Boys and Girls. You know I bought it. It was YOUR cookbook. Spaghetti made with ground beef, salt and pepper and tomato sauce, where *I* got to open the can and pour it in!!! Everything except the meatloaf was there, so I just started to think I wasn’t remembering it correctly. Turns out I was, but there are better methods, and now I eat it all the time and secretly think of you and me squishing meat in the metal bowl with the hanging ring on the side (which I have).
It was also you, plus crazy plus circumstance plus three kids versus the world, and I remember the times you tried to do things together, or get the two of us active and healthy. But I couldn’t do things that weren’t perfect. I didn’t know how to compute it, how to deal. There were little Crayola transfers for making pictures (age 5?), but the rubby thingie wasn’t in the box and I freaked out but you grabbed the wood spatula because really, anything will rub a transfer, but I distinctly remember thinking desperately why is everything in my life incomplete? Like the green bike you bought, with the leg elastic for your pants leg, but we couldn’t, for the life of us, figure out why there was only one, and I panicked because I was sposed to know the answer. Not really, but you felt the same way, and you were sposed to be the adult and now I know how that feels.
Except you had no-one on your side. And a world with very little understanding of Crazy.
I. Do. NOT. Know. How you kept it together so long.
I. Do. NOT. Know. How you kept it together so long.
I mean, you were really wretched later, when you were still pretty much together. You were awful to my younger sister. And I had to pick up those pieces, when I was going through my own real Crazy Adolescence. But then you fell right the fuck apart and I am so, so, so sorry.
Because I know what it’s like. To go all the way to edge. But someone pulled me back. Lots of people. Real, qualified doctors, an awesome (in the true definition, awe-inspiring,) husband, my parents. People loved and supported me. All the things you never had. You had people tell you to pull your shit together. To be a better mother. To straighten up. Did any doctor in the 70‘s listen to you when you said you were falling apart? Your last doctor was a creep. My sisters and I should have reported him. He was the same kind of lech you grew up with. If he had done more, if he had been, well, normal, in any way, you probably would have had a chance, but your darkness was so black and inky I may be fantasizing of a world never meant to be.
I never forget. When You come in to see me, You call me your Angel, your Light. You walk up within a millimetre of a customer and point to me or my workmate, the rock-solid K, and tell them we’re your friends. Then I sell spices and talk to people about cooking all day and think of You. I miss you, but I don’t think we can be together, because as close as you are, I’ll never really find you in there again. But the small me loves jam and meatloaf and Pink and Purple and dinosaurs.
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